Reno arts festival trying to get a handle on its success |

Reno arts festival trying to get a handle on its success

The Associated Press

RENO, Nev. (AP) — Overwhelmed by its growing popularity, the city’s monthlong Artown celebration has adopted an early February deadline for applications to perform in the festival this summer, a move that could mean fewer performances.

Artown staff told about 60 local artists and arts organizations at a meeting Monday that the festival is moving away from an all-inclusive policy, which had allowed participation by any local arts organization that wanted to be in the event, the Daily Sparks Tribune reported Thursday.

Artown staff said they want to begin working with fewer groups and less events in order to help all participating groups improve the quality of their events and to have a more meaningful Artown experience, the newspaper said.

The July event’s espoused mission is to strengthen the local arts industry, foster its civic identity and enhance its national image. In just a few years since its creation, Artown has grown in both size and attendance, attracting more than 162,000 spectators to its 200 events in 2001.

Karen Craig, Artown’s executive director, said the celebration has become a victim of its own success.

“When you have 200 events and you can’t list them all, that’s too many,” Craig said.

Every year, Artown conducts surveys of about 400 spectators to determine who they are and what they want. Craig said the surveys show that spectators want fewer and better events.

“We’re getting to a moment in time where it’s not enough if all these groups do is put on their events,” Craig said. “If you’re going to all the trouble of putting on an event, you need to figure out if it’s worth it.”

Craig said it is not Artown’s intention to be a quality control group.

Instead, the organization wants arts groups to give more thought to their presentations. With that in mind, groups wanting to participate in this year’s Artown event must submit an application by Feb. 8.

The application must include an information sheet including a detailed event description written by a marketing specialist and a goals and objectives worksheet.

In previous years, the deadline was in June, but Craig said most groups waited until the last moment to get their applications in, so the early deadline should not be a burden.

She said the requirement to have a marketing specialist prepare the event description is intended to get more complete, readable information about the event to the public.

“We want to be able to read what will make people want to go to the event,” Craig said. “Some critics are afraid that raising the quality of the events implies going to out-of-town groups, but the best events have always been local in origin.”

Craig said there is a danger in splitting up audiences too thinly between too many competing events. The organization is also looking at which events complement each other.

“The more we raise the bar, the more it benefits the art festival in the long run,” Craig said, adding that Artown has yet to determine how many events will be included this year or what criteria will be used to decided who will participate.

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